Formations Summary

May–August 2021

Unit 1: Ministries of Healing

LaMon Brown

God has given all of us certain gifts, talents, abilities, and opportunities. These five lessons, leading us to and past Pentecost Sunday, will help us discern why God blesses us in these ways. Our texts will deal first with themes of healing, spiritual and compassionate, then the showing and telling of our stories, and finally the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the unit, we will see that God gifts us through the Holy Spirit so that we will use these gifts for the common good in our church and community, as well as for the glory of God.

Unit 2: The Life of Paul

Abby Thornton Hailey

This unit will explore the life of Paul both through his own words and through the words of those inspired by his ministry and example. Beginning with his conversion, we will see how Paul’s passion for the Torah was rechanneled into passionate advocacy for Jesus. We will see how his commitment to the gospel was challenged by difficult situations in the communities he founded. Finally, we will see Paul at the end of his life, reflecting on the past and reminding a younger brother in the faith of what is ultimately important. Paul’s faith journey not only gives us insight into Christian history but also offers crucial insight into our present journeys.

Unit 3: The Book of Zechariah

Brent A. Newberry

Zechariah is rarely quoted or taught in churches, and it only appears once in the Revised Common Lectionary. Most likely, this is because the book doesn’t lend itself to straightforward teaching, motivational poster quotes, or easy answers. Chock full of visions and oracles, Zechariah requires a deeper understanding of the prophet’s context in order to glean a helpful interpretation. This unit focuses on the first eight chapters of Zechariah, which reveals God’s intentions for Judah and the neighboring nations. In our study, we will find a world as weary and uncertain as our own, and God’s answering message of comfort and hope.

Unit 4: Seasons of Life

T. Wayne Proctor

In these five lessons we will explore the value of the various seasons of life, particularly as they relate to the Christian experience. The Scripture texts we will examine come from the Gospels, wisdom literature, Paul’s letters, and the book of Genesis. The Bible is a book of thousands of stories about life from the womb to the tomb and beyond. It is the book that provides hope beyond the natural seasons—and that hope is in the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. For all things, there is a season, a time to belong, a time to learn, a time to lead, a time to reflect, and a time to bless.

September–December 2021

Unit 1: The Sermon on the Mount

Leigh Powers

This unit gives us several ways to reflect on the theme of movement through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The first lesson will explore how the call to righteousness involves an outward movement in relationship with others and an inward righteousness of practicing our piety before God. Next, we will consider the horizontal and vertical movements of cheerful, faithful giving. Lesson 3 will focus our attention on thanksgiving, and the Israelites’ connection to the cycles of nature: plowing, planting, and reaping. Finally, we will honor the yearly cycles of our religious and secular life by reflecting on the hope of Christmas and its potential to shape our lives as we move into God’s future.

Unit 2: Cheerful Givers

Stephanie Ezell

This unit explores what is means to be a cheerful giver. First, we will look at the story of the Israelites building a tabernacle for worshiping God as they travel through the wilderness. We will also study the Gospel story of the scribes and religious teachers’ giving in contrast to the giving of the impoverished widow, who offers God everything she has. Finally, we will discuss the early Christian community in the book of Acts. Instead of clinging to their possessions, these new believers sell their property and live together, sharing their resources. As we discuss these texts, we will reflect on how our giving can be a grateful, cheerful response to our loving God who is the source of all our gifts.

Unit 3: Lord of the Harvest

Jason Loscuito

The lessons in this unit will focus on harvesting, sharing, and rejoicing in God’s providence as we prepare to participate in our annual tradition. In the first session, we will reflect on how we can attune ourselves to the rhythms of God’s creation through Psalm 104. In session 2, we will investigate what Paul and the writers of Leviticus say about God’s provision for human need. The central question of the third session asks us to reflect on what can happen when we share what we have with God and with others, and is addressed by Malachi and Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. The passage in the final session describes a ritual of thanksgiving that the Israelites are to perform once they have entered the promised land, making connections between this ancient ritual and our own ways of thanking God for the blessings we enjoy.

Unit 4: The Hope of Advent

Taylor Sandlin

Many of us are familiar with the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love conveyed in the Advent wreath. The lessons of this unit are arranged according to a different tradition of reflecting on the meaning of Christ’s coming: the Prophets’ Candle, the Bethlehem Candle, the Shepherds’ Candle, and the Angels’ Candle. Each candle’s meaning will be explored through a passage in John’s Gospel. Though John gives us no manger, no shepherds or angels, and not even the little town of Bethlehem, he points us to what really matters about this season: that the Word became flesh in Jesus Christ and dwelled among us.